Guide to Butte, Montana for Visitors

Are you planning a visit to the “Richest Hill on Earth” anytime soon?  That would be Butte, Montana, for those who don’t know about the vast history and beauty of this less-visited area of Montana.

Whether you are in Butte for work, spending some vacation days in the city, or you were brought in last minute after spotting the famous “Our Lady of the Rockies statue from the Interstate,” you may be surprised by the number of great things to do in Butte — and we are here to help you learn exactly what it is you can do there.

Berkeley Pit, the site of a former open mine near Butte, Montana
Berkeley Pit, the site of a former open mine near Butte

Butte was initially established in the mid-1800s as a mining camp. This town has had enormous success in the mining and smelting operations, resulting in Montana’s Copper Kings, whose touches are still found all around Butte, including in some pretty impressive turn of the century mansions.

What to Do in Butte, Montana

Catch a glimpse of Our Lady of the Rockies

Our Lady of the Rockies in Butte, MT

I already mentioned this famous statue once, and it may be the first site you see depending on how you’re getting into Butte.  The construction of the Our Lady of the Rockies statue began in 1979, and was finished in 1985.  The Statue itself is in the likeness of Mary, Mother of Jesus, but is said to be non-denominational and is dedicated to women everywhere.

Our Lady of the Rockies is the second tallest statue in the United States (the tallest is the Statue of Liberty). She is visible from both interstates that cross through Butte (I-90 and I-15), but I think the best view is going south along I-15. There is a pull-off you can use for a better look.

You can also drive up to the Our Lady of the Rockies statue up close (and with some great views of the valley), but if short on time, I think it’s even more alluring to see her from below, keeping watch over Butte from her mountain top location. The statue is also lit up at night, which is really cool to see if you’re driving through Butte after sunset.

Go Underground at the World Museum of Mining

Do you have an interest in mining? Are you intrigued by the deep history of mining in Montana?  If you said yes to either of these things, then you need to visit the World Museum of Mining. There is a recreation of an old mining town (think re-created western town, but with a focus on mining), REAL mines which you can go into, and there is also a mineral room where you can get an idea of the minerals found in the area. 

While you are at the museum you also get to spend some time checking out old mining equipment. If you want the real experience, you can take a tour of the museum, often led by retired miners.

Just to throw a little weird into the mix, inside of the World Museum of Mining you can also find the Doll Museum. 

Discover Cool Gems at MBMG Mineral Museum

Once you finish at the World Mining Museum, make sure to head on over to Montana Tech and visit the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Mineral Museum. 

With over 10,000 specimens (1,000 on display), this museum is home to one of the greatest mineral and rock collections in the world, including several meteorites and a large gold nugget which was found in the Butte area.

Take a Ride on the Butte Trolley Tour

If you want a fun, and relatively quick history lesson on the town of Butte, take a trip on the Butte Trolley tour.  This tour is a really fun way to learn about the history of Butte. This trolley tour is inexpensive and only takes about two hours. 

Get a Guide to History on the Downtown Butte Walking Tours

Another way to tour Butte is on a Downtown Walking Tour. It’s a great way to really see the history of Butte in an up-close and personal way.  These guided walking tours are available from late spring to early fall, however, you can make a special request for tours during the colder seasons. 

Due to there being over 5,000 historic buildings plus other historic sites and mines in Butte, there are several different types of tours available, including decade-specific tours. All tours are family friendly, and equally interesting to adults and kids alike.

Live Like a Wealthy Miner at Copper King Mansion

Learn how the upper class lived in Butte during the mining boom at the Copper King Mansion. This 34-room Victorian mansion was the home of William Andrews Clark, one of the Montana “Copper Kings,” and as such, became one of the wealthiest men in the world. 

The Copper King Mansion was built in 1888 at a cost of $500k, which was a massive amount of money at the time (roughly $13m today). The mansion is available to tour late spring through early fall, and it is also a bed and breakfast.

Take a Hike Along Copperway Trails

Old railroads and stream corridors were turned into visually pleasing hiking trails to make up the Copperway Trails network. These urban trails have starting points within the city center and take hikers to prominent sites in Butte like a Berkley Pit Viewing Point or alongside Mining headframes. You can also head south along the Poore-Wild Trail to reach the scenery of Silver Bow Creek.

Go Shopping at 5518 Designs

Start paying attention to high-quality t-shirts and sweatshirts at gift shops around Montana and you may start to notice a theme: the tags say 5518.

The 5518 Designs brand is one of Montana’s most unique and beloved clothing and print shops in the state, and its headquarters are located right in Uptown Butte.

My husband has an extensive T-shirt collection, and I got him a t-shirt here of a surfer on Brennan’s Wave in Missoula and it’s still one of his favorites to wear due to the unique design and soft material. I also have a sweatshirt I got from the gift shop at Triple Creek Ranch that is a 5518 printed sweatshirt and it’s also one of my most comfy sweatshirts I have. Plus, it still looks nearly brand new even after wearing it on repeat fro the last few years.

Eat at the Oldest Chinese Restaurant in America

The oldest continuously operating Chinese restaurant in the United State is located in none other than Butte, MT! The restaurant is Pekin Noodle Parlor and it’s still serving up delicious dishes to this day. Started in 1909, the restaurant is located in a historic building in the Chinatown area of Butte, which is a quick drive or easy 10-15 minute walk from Uptown.

Walk Around the Mai Wah Society Building

If you’re finding yourself surprised that the oldest Chinese restaurant is located in Butte, it might be time to familiarize yourself with the history of Chinese immigrants in the area. A great place to do so is at the Mai Wah Society, a historic building that is just around the corner from Pekin Noodle Parlor open to visitors to walk through and look at is displays about the story of Chinese immigrants in the area. Artifacts are also on display.

Look for Ghosts at Dumas Brothel

Dumas Brothel closed in 1982, making it Butte’s longest running brothel. Today, the building can still be toured during which you can learn about the history of the building and hear some colorful and outrageous stories about its time as a brothel. There is also rumored to be some paranormal activity happening at Dumas Brothel so keep your eyes peeled for ghosts during the tour!

Watch a Show at Mother Lode Theatre

Did you know that you can catch a great show in Butte?  You can! The Mother Lode Theatre is a wonderful place to visit to see local, regional as well as national touring productions. This is also where to head in Butte when you want to see the symphony or head to a concert.

Reflect at Granite Mountain Mine Memorial

Butte Mining Memorial

The Granite Mountain Mine Memorial was created in memory of the miners who lost their lives in a terrible fire that took place in the Granite Mountain Shaft in 1917.  This fire was the cause of the loss of 168 miners, which is the most fatalities in metal mining history. As tragic as this disaster was, there were also incredible stories of survival, as well as rescue and recovery operations that saw the whole community come together to help.

The Granite Mountain Mine Memorial is a place to learn the history of this disaster, remember those lost and also learn a lot about mining itself. You’ll be able to read about the tragedy and also hear powerful stories of rescue operations and survival.

Eat in an Old Bank

My uncle suggested meeting for lunch at this restaurant on one of our visits, and it was such a cool place to eat! Like many businesses in Butte, Metals Sports Bar and Grill is located in a building that is rich in history. In this case, Metals is in the esteemed Metals Blanc Building, built in 1906 and which once housed a federal bank.

Banks back in the early 1900s were much grander than they are today, and remnants of this austerity is still visible in the ceilings and other decor accents around the restaurant, including the original marble teller counters on display in the middle of the restaurant. My favorite part is the old massive bank vault which now houses the wine.

The food is great, too, with a focus on typical American sports bar grub using local, fresh flavors.

Listen to Talented Musicians at the Montana Folk Festival

The Montana Folk Festival is a vibrant celebration of music, arts, and culture that takes place annually on a July weekend in the Uptown district of Butte. It’s one of Montana’s biggest festivals and attracts locals and visitors alike.

The festival showcases a diverse range of acts, from all around the world, including traditional folk music, dance performances, storytelling, and artisan demonstrations. From toe-tapping bluegrass tunes to Irish fiddling, there is something for everyone to enjoy at this family-friendly event.

Artisan markets, a First Peoples’ fashion show, and a family arts and crafts area are also part of the Montana Folk Festival. One more awesome aspect of this festival? It’s free to attend!

Nearby places to visit when you are in Butte, Montana:

If you are looking for a day trip while in Butte, Montana, you have no shortage of opportunities!  Here are some great ideas for you:

Glacier National Park (4 hours away)

Lewis and Clark Cavern State Park  (42 miles away)

Grant-Kohrs Ranch (40 miles away)

Whether you’re visiting Butte during a Montana road trip, are using it as a base during your time in Montana, or want some fun things to do in Butte while visiting friends and family, you’ll be able to find history and entertainment during your stay in this historic city.

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